Fire on the Land: A Tribal Prospective

Reason for the Project:

  • The landscape that European-Americans first saw when they traveled west of the Mississippi was not a natural terrain in the sense of being untouched by humans. It was a cultural landscape, a landscape in which the plant and animal communities had been shaped in large part by many thousands of years of burning by Indian people.

  • On many areas tribal people more than doubled the frequency of fires.

  • Today, as managers attempt to reintroduce fire after more than a century of fire exclusion, the extent to which Native Americans used fire as a land management tool is often left out of the public debate.

Brief Description:

  • This project will increase public awareness of and appreciation for the Indian use of fire as a land management tool and increase the publics acceptance of prescribed fire by producing an integrated set of educational materials focusing on the use of fire by Indian people and the profound effects that Indian burning had on plant and animal communities.

  • The materials produced will also discuss fundamental principals of fire ecology in the Northern Rockies, the changes that have occurred in vegetation as a result of one hundred years of fire exclusion, and how and why fire is being restored to the landscape. It will integrate the most up-to-date scientific knowledge and technology with traditional tribal knowledge about the use of fire.

Materials produced include:

  1. A storybook based on the Salish and Pend d'Oreille Coyote story, Beaver Steals Fire;

  2. A 25 minute iconographic DVD for all ages based on the storybook and hosted by the Salish elder and cultural leader Johnny Arlee;

  3. An interactive DVD that includes information on tribal history, the history of fire use, fire ecology, fire management activities on the Flathead Indian Reservation, and other resources on the topic of Indian fire use; and

  4. A presentation for anyone seeking information about the Indian use of fire and the Salish and Kootenai Tribes ecosystem-management-based forest management plan, the first of its kind in Indian country. The plan relies heavily on prescribed fire to accomplish its restoration goals.